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Man From Plains

cool retro poster for Man From Plains

Coming out of this film, I again wondered why so many Americans look down their noses at their 39th president. Jimmy Carter was well-regarded by the rest of the world, after all. He has always had the persona of a humble, gracious, honest humanitarian and I don’t think it’s just a facade. The seemingly indefatigable Nobel Peace Prize winner is in almost every frame of Jonathan Demme’s film. And he seems quite comfortable there; he has nothing to hide.  

Demme trains his cameras on Carter as he travels coast to coast on a book tour, promoting his book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. The book has stirred up some controversy because of its use of the word “apartheid” and because (it seems) most people have formed opinions about it before they’ve actually read it. (What else is new?) Interspersed with sequences from various promotional stops on his tour are personal reflections (e.g. Rosalynn Carter talking about what tipped the Peace Accord scales at Camp David) and vintage footage–some of which showed how eerily prescient Carter was as President (e.g. urging research into alternate fuels and less reliance upon foreign oil during the energy crisis of the 70s). He was a president ahead of his time, perhaps…

And there’s the rub. Or, rather, the subtext. On the surface, it is an affectionate portrait of the peace-crusading former president but, just below the surface, surely the viewer is expected to reflect upon the current sad state of affairs…

and the cayuse you rode in on!

→ originally published 2007-09-15

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